As someone who’s worked from home for a while now, I thought I’d put together some random tips on working from home. I will note at the start that the situation we’re in right now is NOT a great example of working from home — not only are we all panicked/anxious to some extent, but kids may be home, and people are still setting up home offices and figuring out what works for them.
I’m an introvert and am really happy to work from my desk every day (versus the “social” remote worker who goes to coworking spaces or coffee shops), but even I have many, many days where my husband walks through the door and I suddenly rattle off a million thoughts.
It takes a lot of time to find your vibe and what works as a remote worker — so while these are our best tips to try, keep in mind that no one is at peak productivity right now. I keep hearing readers worrying that bosses will decide WFH isn’t right for anyone based on what’s happening now, and I really hope that’s not the impression bosses and managers are getting — these times are truly crazy.
After the 2016 election, we offered tips on how to focus on work when other things are going on, and all of those tips apply right now! (If you are on Twitter, give yourself a few hours daily where you stop doomscrolling!)
Thank you, Kate, for adding a few tips here and there as well!
Readers, what are some of your best random tips on working from home? What areas have been the biggest struggle for you as you get used to this strange new world?
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How to Focus When You Work From Home
1. Eat the frog first thing. One of the big tips to improve your focus is to “eat the frog” (affiliate link) by getting the thing you’re dreading out of the way first thing every day. Then you don’t have to spend the rest of the day avoiding it!
2. Use a Bluetooth keyboard with an iPhone or iPad. It’s almost like working on a typewriter because it’s very hard to have forty million tabs open when you’re working on a mobile device!
3. Manage your energy. If you hit a slow time every afternoon, keep a running list of low-level work (it’s easy, you enjoy it, etc.) that you can do during your low time. Try to notice when you’re most productive, and do your best to guard against scheduling meetings, running errands, or getting distracted by texts or whatnot during those times.
4. Ask yourself what tools and type of workspace you need for each task. For example, if you need to spread out piles of paper, your bed may not be a great place to work. (Also, working in the same place that you sleep may make it harder to fall asleep at night.) You may need to type with a number keyboard, in which case your Chromebook or Bluetooth keyboard won’t be ideal and you’ll need your desktop. If you feel like working outside for a bit, great — but you may not get the best WiFi out there.
5. Find the flow. To me, working from home is all about the flow. If you can get into the flow, you’re doing great — and remember where you were and what about the work situation worked best. Not everything is reproducible, but it’s worth keeping track and trying to see a pattern.
6. Schedule your workday using the Pomodoro technique, which we mentioned in our post on scheduling breaks to increase your productivity. (It’s also great to use the scheduled breaks to get exercise snacks — do one minute of kettlebell swings, planks, squats, pushups, or something else!)
7. Add background noise if it helps. If you’re used to the background noise in your office and you’re finding your home to be too quiet, check out our recommendations for the best Spotify playlists to help you focus.
8. Find an accountability buddy if you’re really struggling to get work done! If a friend or coworker is having trouble being productive, too, set up specific times during the day to check in with each other and share what you’ve accomplished so far.
9. Try to duplicate your morning office routines at home. These familiar cues will help get your brain into work mode.
10. Consider a more robust to-do list method than the one you use at the office. Check out our post on how to keep track of work to-dos, including the reader comments.
How to Avoid Snacking When You Work From Home
A caveat to this section: There’s a global pandemic on! Have a cookie if you want a cookie. Hell, have ten. That said, I’ve got a few tips if your own snacking is bugging you.
1. Fill a bottle of water to keep at your desk — hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
2. At the beginning of each day, rinse a piece of fruit (or prepare some other “healthy” snack) and put it by your desk to prevent yourself from making less-preferred choices later in the day when you’re tired and/or stressed.
3. I tend to eat the same thing for lunch most days (a variation of eggs), but you do you!
4. Set periods of time that you’ll consider your kitchen “closed,” which will help you avoid wandering in there when you’re not actually hungry, just bored.
5. If you find yourself snacking at 3:00 p.m. every day, you may want to get into a tea habit — it’s a great way to make sure you’re actually hungry instead of dehydrated, and it’s a happy little break to look forward to. (If you’re not a regular tea drinker, I love most chocolate-flavored teas such as those from Harney & Sons or Republic of Tea; for the past month or so I’ve been extremely loyal to Tazo’s Wild Sweet Orange. Here are more of our favorite teas and accessories.)
What to Wear When You Work From Home
1. You will feel SO MUCH BETTER if you get out of pajamas. Personally, I tend to get up and put on workout duds first thing in the morning (hope springs eternal, and it’s a habit from days of greeting the babysitter/getting the kids to school/daycare). Later in the day, I move to what I like to call “people clothes,” as in clothes I can answer the door in. (Depending on how binding my sports bra is, it actually motivates me some days to get into “people clothes.”
2. Wear some kind of shoes if you’ve got hardwood floors. When I was first working from home I was barefoot all the time, or maybe in floppy slippers — my feet are kind of jacked anyways (yay bunions, fallen arches, and “triangle feet”!), but a podiatrist yelled at me that I should be wearing shoes around the house. His recommendation: Crocs RX. I’m not a fan of those (the lack of holes makes for sweaty feet, IMHO), but good old regular Crocs have basically become my slippers. I don’t wear them outside (honestly, I even take them off to answer the door!), but I do like them. I know some people prefer Birks for around the house, or fancy house slippers like those from Ugg — even flip-flops with arch support or shoes like Rothys will help cushion your feet more than being barefoot.
3. Consider adding a third piece, particularly if you’re doing Zoom calls — a necklace or cardigan really makes you feel like you’ve got an “outfit” going, even if it’s far different than what you normally wear.
4. Wear makeup (or don’t) if you want. I’ve written about this before — I struggled with being a “good feminist” and not wearing makeup when it was just me — but I’m much happier to wear a smidge of makeup. You do you! I consider myself dressed when I’ve got some concealer, eyeliner, blush, and a neutral lipstick or MLBB tint.
5. I love pockets, mostly just because I tend to lose my phone regularly — so I always try to wear a cardigan and pants with pockets. Some of my favorite clothes with pockets right now include these:
Pictured: leggings / sweater / pull-on jeans / athletic leggings with pockets / stretchy jeans
Personal Hygiene Tips When You Work From Home
1. If you didn’t shower yesterday, shower today!
2. If you wear any item of clothing for longer than eight hours while doing anything other than sleeping, consider it dirty. Some items like jeans and cashmere (particularly worn with layers beneath it) can go for a few wears longer, but right now (these crazy times!) you may want to keep a distinction between clothes worn outside the house and clothes that are only for around the house.
3. Build lower-priority habits into your schedule. This helps you keep track of time as well as do basic maintenance. Shaving is a great example here, or deep conditioning your hair, or other things like that — do it every three days (or two weeks!).
4. If you are wearing eyeglasses more than you regularly do (perhaps because you’re taking a break from contacts), consider a pair with a blue-blocking tint! While my eyes feel better wearing them in front of the computer, from a vanity perspective I do think they make my eyes look darker/more shaded, but not in an obvious way with tints — I just look tired. So again I have “people glasses” and home glasses. My home pair of eyeglasses are these cheapies from GlassesUSA. I originally bought them years ago for working out because they’re super flexible, but liked them so much I wore them almost all the time. When I lost them a while ago I decided to get a new pair with blue-blocking tints. Warby Parker and Felix Ray both offer blue-filtering lenses and offer home try-on, though! Here was our last roundup on the best online glasses stores for women.
5. Don’t wear totally ratty stuff. If your work from home attire has holes or rips in it, get rid of it. (Chris Evans is, of course, exempted from this rule.)
Other Remote Work Tips
1. Get good earphones or earbuds — they help the clarity on every phone call or Zoom call. If you’ve got a bad connection, don’t forget about FaceTime Audio — Kate and I often use that when we chat.
2. Print when you need to.We shared tips on how to cut down on printing from home, but printing isn’t completely avoidable, alas. With wait times increasing for basic deliveries, take stock now of whether you like your printer, ink, and paper situation. (I have a Canon TR8520 printer, which is fine, but the ink is annoyingly expensive.)
3. Consider virtual project sharing tools. Every remote worker has a favorite way of sharing tasks and to-dos to stay up to date on projects — tools like Trello, Slack, and Asana are all big hits for a reason — but check with your office tech gurus first to make sure privacy considerations and other things work for you!
4. Create a dedicated space. If you have an office or desk in your home, that’s great, but even just a space to put all your work things at the end of each day will help both to a) keep your things in order and b) set good work boundaries. (We bought a secretary desk a while ago for my husband to have a dedicated space that could be closed up, as I described in our tips on how to set up the best home office for working moms and dads.)
5. Get a good chair! Some of reader favorites from our recent roundup of the best office chairs for working from home include these:
Above, the most comfortable office chairs for working from home: brown / white & purple / black / blue / black — don’t forget a floor mat!
Stock photo (woman working at her kitchen table in a red shirt) via Pexels / Andrea Piacquadio.
Readers, what are your best random tips for working from home? What have you found in terms of setup and routine that works for you?
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I am in the process of looking for a new job in what is now a recession. I am looking to transition from academia to non -academic roles. I have seen advice about including quantities when describing the things I worked on. The problem is I do environmental research so common examples like “increased sales by 20%” don’t apply to me. In short there is no direct commercial gain from the work I do and listing papers published may not be relevant for some of the non-academic jobs I am applying for. Would it be odd to include the budget amounts for projects I have worked e.g. Managed project activities for ABC project financed by the Government agency Y at $250,000 and focusing on quantifying emissions at XYZ sites….”. I usually reported project expenditures e.g. when I buy supplies to a university administrator who directly managed the budget.
Any other ideas for quantifying impact on a resume or in a cover letter are welcome.
I think you’ve posted before. Best of luck in your job hunt!
Yes, include project management. I might phrase it as “Managed $250,000 project for ABC project for Government agency Y, focused on quantifying emissions…” and describe the project activities.
My general advice is to list some of your published papers, because businesses see value in smart, motivated, successful people. Also, PLEASE list any successful in-person presentations, because being able to do public speaking is a huge bonus.
Ditto to what the poster below me said – my husband transitioned out of the military and one of the things that he got comments on were the values of the projects that he worked on. Some interviewers struggled to grasp transferability of skills, but when he pointed out “guns or military equipment or the widgets you make, I still can manage X number of people and X amount of dollars”, that seemed to really hit home for people.
What’s the purpose of a floor mat on a non-carpet surface; is there one?
I’ve always used them with hardwood floors to protect the floor…
This was awesome – thank you!